Friday, June 28, 2013

The Kid with a Bike

A story of perseverance, and perhaps resignation. This french film follows Cyril who was recently abandoned by his father. The title (and the opening 1/3) suggests that abandonment will be about seeking comfort or stability in the possession of a bike. In fact, this is more a character study of a person, or people if you include the hairdresser who takes him in, who are struggling to understand themselves and what it means to have a real relationship. And perhaps what it takes to enter (and accept) the trust of another. The slowness of the film, I suppose lets you soak into the characters and appreciate their struggles. When at home, it also lets you get up and make popcorn without actually pausing the film.
3 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Muay Thai Warrior

The opening title states that this film was made in honor of 125 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Japan. The rest of the film views as a propaganda piece showing how well these two peoples get along. A Japanese soldier is injured in battle and finds himself in a Thai village to recover from his injuries. They take care of him, his nurse is a nice looking young woman who finds him attractive, the nurses young niece is a charming and precocious helper. The village warriors help train the Japanese in the art of Muay Thai boxing and he takes on the mantle of guardian of the Emperor. Every 10 minutes, we are reminded "Look how well the Japanese and Thai can get along" in so many words. And then we proceed to "in an intercultural way" slaughter hundreds in hand-to-hand combat. I would stick with Ong Bak for Muay Thai viewing.
2 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Man of Steel

I am not a Superman fanboy, but I remember the Christopher Reeve versions from the ancient days. I suppose that this was everything I expected, but not what I hoped for. We get a good backstory on Krypton, and a series of snippets of Clark as he grows up and discovers he is different. We get Zod coming to exact his revenge and make his "New Krypton". We get lots of explosions and fantastic flying fight scenes. In effect, we get lots of Zack Snyder. What I hoped for was more Christopher Nolan genius. Something a bit more interesting. This was standard summer action film, on par with something like Green Lantern in quality. Unfortunately for this film, Superman is not on par with the Green Lantern. I expect so much more. An expectations are everything.
3 stars (out of 5)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Interview with a Hitman

Victor is a professional hitman and through the mechanism of a recorded interview, we see the development of his craft. Starting with a troubled family in Romania, associations with the local mob, to becoming a freelance expert, Victor is consistently emotionless and hard. And yet, Victor is our protagonist and we are meant to feel sympathy for him. Several times throughout the film, a character states "but I had no choice, don't you see". Victor is continually fighting against this way of thinking, trying to identify if really, there is a choice. Overall, this is a very flat drama designed to match the emotional even keel of Victor. And yet somehow, in the end I found myself thinking "interesting" and "clever", reviewing the actions throughout to see how everything fit together. Of course, the violence is brutal, but it is not graphic as tends to be popular in current action films.

3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Adequate next edition in a great franchise that was rebooted a few years ago in Star Trek. I have never been a true Trekkie, but do enjoy the films. Kirk et al. get enmeshed in a plot by the military industry to start war in order to justify the existence of the military industry. In that respect, we are subtly pointed to look at current events for parallels. Kirk begins to make moral choices, bucking authority in the process, and helps Starfleet develop into a largely peaceful organization. At the same time, we get backstory on Kahn. The main effect of this backstory is the make me want to go watch some of the original film Kahn to really understand the references. Maybe a late night summer project. A solid entry in the sequence, but I still have my socks on.

3 stars (out of 5)

Now you see me

Is it possible to simultaneously like a movie and be a little bit let down? This film presents a pretty good heist premise. Four independent magicians are brought together by some unknown kingpin to utilize magic as a guise for some very large thefts (millions from a bank, insurance company CEO and vault company). The execution is clever and really utilizes the premis of magic well. This is also the let-down. Magic on film could be magic, or it could be CGI? Without revealing the reality (which a magician never does, right?) this may as well be a Disney princess movie. So while liking the plot and the idea, and even liking the device of magic/illusion as mechanism for theft, I was disappointed in the reliance on magic for effect. Can't have it both ways? Maybe not, but that means that I don't have rave over the film either.

3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Thieves

Brilliant. I love a good heist film. This Korean film is one of the best that I have seen in quite a while. It is fun, the heist stunts are a bit crazy, and the double crossing is so frequent that you don't know what number you are on. At the same time, each twist and turn is, as soon as you see it, completely consistent with the overall plot and characterization and not forced. The story introduces a Korean team of thieves and a Chinese team. Then these two teams join forces at the invitation of common acquaintance for a big heist. Each team and a variety of individual groupings within the teams all reveal their personal goals and priorities as the plan is developed and carried out. Extremely well paced and clever. See this.
5 stars (out of 5)

The Stories We Tell

Filmed as a documentary, but really only pseudo-doc as all of the characters are actors following a script. But based on some outline of a true story based on director Sarah Polley's life. The search if for truth, and how we identify and illuminate truth. Perhaps also about point of view. As Polley interviews various family members and friends to find out about her mother, she learns to know who her mother is and probably gets a better picture because of the varied perspective. Each story is based on a personal relationship that is only really known fully to that story-teller. So Polley collects these individual and personal relationships into a cohesive fullness that helps us to feel we know her mother better. Fun to watch...
4 stars (out of 5)

Before Midnight

Third in the Linklater trilogy of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, we pick up with Jesse and Celine married, with kids, and vacationing in Greece.  They are living at a famous writers house and everyone gets to hang out and talk about writing and being and all kinds of metaphysical drivel. Of course, I don't  think metaphysical discussions are drivel, but Celine certainly does. As in the first two installments, Jesse and Celine spend the majority of the film in discussion, but we are not as free here as earlier. Now we have substance that must be covered; family, jobs, division of labor in the household, aging, etc. So while we still try to have a conversational walk-about, the conversation simply doesn't walk. We are slogging through the reality of relationship. Of course it takes time to get to "slog", so the first half of the film is much lighter and more fun. A good (perhaps inevitable) treatment of this life that Jesse and Celine have built over the past decade, but not great. I would characterize it as Solid. And perhaps look forward to the next installment, when the twins have left for college.
3 stars (out of 5)